Finishing What You Start: 4 Editing Pitfalls to Learn From
I just re-watched a cinematic classic, a tale of Machiavellian business practices and romantic uncertainty. It’s a movie called You’ve Got Mail. In this movie, Tom Hanks is charming (duh), and Meg Ryan is her usual beautiful but relatable self (also, duh). It’s a go-to, re-watchable film, but this last time I cozied up to it I noticed something. It’s a small moment that most people wouldn’t catch. But, in the scene where Tom Hanks’ character and his fictitious father are both on a boat together and Tom is mixing up martinis, I noticed a subtle discrepancy. Tom, as Joe Fox, shakes up the drinks and garnishes them with olives. The cameras then cut to his dad, who offers some lines about life, and then they cut back to Tom who ADDS OLIVES AGAIN!! One second Tom is putting olives in his martini, and the next the olives aren’t there and he has to put them in again. How could this happen?!
Now that I’ve gotten over the shock of this mistake, I’m able to see that it’s an editing error that even a Nora Ephron-written-Tom-Hanks-and-Meg-Ryan-starring-in-film can have, and more than ever I’m realizing the importance of post-production.
I recently wrapped up filming my first short film in my First 15 project—Cry Wolf. Getting to immerse myself in the post-production editing process I was reminded of four pitfalls to avoid that will make your editing—and final product—so much better!
Pitfall #1: Lack of Planning
You’re on location, ready to shoot, time to yell “Action!” and you realize…you don’t have power because you forgot to bring an extension cord. “That’ll never happen to me,” you say? It happens to everyone, and the way to avoid it is to plan every detail. Make sure you have food and water so your actors don’t run out of grace for the 30th take of the same line. Make sure you have all of your props built and on location for your shoot. Make sure you have batteries charged and ready (and spare batteries charged and ready) for every piece of equipment. Before you shoot, sit down and write out every scene and shot of your film/commercial/video. After that, breakdown each scene and make sure you know every piece of equipment that is needed and that it’s ready to go. If you plan, and back-up plan, for everything that could go wrong. I know what you’re thinking, “Geez whiz Jake, this is awful specific” yeah… It’s because everything listed above is a mistake I personally made on this ONE shoot.
Pitfall #2: “I’ll fix it in editing.”
Repeat after me: If it doesn’t look right when I’m filming it, it’s not going to look right when I’m editing it. Editing is magical and can smooth out a lot of rough edges, but you have to give yourself enough good raw material to work with. It may mean an extra 30 minutes to do two or three more takes, but getting the shot you’re really looking for will save you from beating your head against the computer later on.
Pitfall #3: Not getting enough b-roll
Even with the most engaging, heart-felt customer testimonial, you’re still going to need visuals that your audience can see and engage with. Get as much on film as you can without completely destroying your time window. If you’re shooting a commercial where a customer is talking about how great your customer service is, make sure to get footage of you and a happy customer. If you’re making a video to show how great your lawn care business is, make sure to get more than enough footage of beautiful lawns and your hardworking team. You can’t have too much on film once you’re in the editing room.
Pitfall #4: Not taking “quiet on the set!” far enough
In the heat of a shoot, you may not notice your grip nervously tapping their foot because they haven’t peed for 6 hours, or the sound of your assistant chewing gum like a cow turned metronome but when you sit down and review all the brilliant dialogue it took 7 hours to capture, you’ll hear every out of place cricket chirp, neck scratch, and stomach growl. The microphone is going to pick up everything. A phone ringing, an air conditioner coming on, someone blowing their nose…it will all be there to greet you in post, and through editing, you may be able to eliminate some sounds (depending on the software), but you’ll never be able to completely fix poorly captured audio. So, when it’s time to yell action, make sure you’ve quieted every unwanted noise you can.
When you’re shooting a commercial or making a movie, every detail makes a difference, and avoiding these pitfalls can be the difference in another day of shooting or having/not having a commercial that looks professional and tells the story of your business the way it deserves to be told. Don’t waste time or money, pay attention to the little things and make a great video!